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Monkey Bars: Strong, attractive garage products

5 October 2015

One key to having a neat and organized garage is getting everything you can off the floor. I’ve seen a variety of options in my clients’ garages, but I hadn’t been exposed to Monkey Bars before I saw them at this year’s NAPO conference. I was impressed by the strength and durability of the garage shelving systems I saw.

Then I was contacted by their marketing folks offering a product for review. Since I was curious about the product, I accepted a Large Yard Tool Rack. We’re not much of a yard and garden family (we hire someone to take of the lawn) and we have limited tools, which we pretty much hang on nails on the joists of our decidedly un-fancy garage. There was definite room for improvement in the storage of our yard tools, so I was anxious to give it a try.

I was encourage by this video, which shows how easy the installation is.

I don’t own a drill, so I asked my handy friend John if he would install it for me. Installation really was a breeze—the hardest part was figuring out where to place the rack. It took at most 15 minutes for John to install it and it would have been faster if I weren’t there distracting him.

Not only did the rack go up very easily, but it’s solid and attractive. The hooks attach with a metal clip, not plastic, and they attach very easily and solidly. When John finished installing it, he said, “This is great; I’m going to buy one for my garage.” High praise indeed.

The price is good, too. The kit comes with the 51” bar, two brackets and hardware, plus eight different hooks. All for $99.99.

A look at their website shows that Monkey Bars is about a lot more than yard tool storage. They make overhead storage, garage cabinets, and shelving that can be integrated with their other products. The brackets holding up the shelves can hold bars on which can be hung tools or accessories. I’m impressed!

For the larger products they offer dealer installation, which for someone like me gives great peace of mind. I was glad to have this opportunity to try a Yard Tool Rack and experience the quality of the product. I’ll be mentioning it to clients who are looking to use products to upgrade their garage organization.

The 30 X 30 challenge

1 October 2015

Jumpstart a new habit with a 30 x 30 challenge

I love doing genealogy research, but I often have trouble finding time to do it. Because it’s seldom urgent, it falls to the bottom of the priority list, like so many enjoyable things. Since I blog at my other blog, Organize Your Family History, it’s important for me to do the research so I have genealogy-related things to blog about. But, as I said, it can be a challenge to find time.

In early August, I decided to implement a personal 30 X 30 genealogy challenge, in which I committed to doing 30 minutes of genealogy research 30 days in a row. It was amazingly effective. I did not miss a day, and I had days where there was no way I would have done it otherwise—one day there was a big family emergency, but I managed to do my research. Another day I led a huge organizing team for 10.5 hours, but I got in my 30 minutes before leaving the house.

One thing that made it easy was that I was working on a specific project (transcribing my great great great grandfather’s Civil War pension file), so I had a specific task to do and could skip the step of deciding what to work on.

I think one of the reasons this was so successful is that it felt realistic. 30 minutes is not a long time. And the whole thing would be over in 30 days. If I had made a one-year commitment, I probably would have given up on week two.

My 30 X 30 genealogy challenge ended on September 5 and I probably did research all of five times in the remaining weeks of September. Today is October 1 and I’ve decided to implement another one, starting today, so that I get more genealogy research done.

But I’m also thinking of other areas of my life where I could implement a daily challenge. It could be a great way to jumpstart a new habit. I think, for me, the factors I need to make it a successful challenge are:

  • It needs to be something I want to do daily (obviously)
  • It needs to require relatively low effort
  • The effort needs to be measurable

The obvious choice for me is exercise, something that I struggle to find time to do every day. I will commit to taking a 30-minute walk, or the exercise equivalent, as measured by my Apple Watch, every day for 30 days. Today is the first day of October, and it’s nice, though not required, to start things like this on the first day of the month. So off I go! I’ll report on progress here.

My Apple Watch: Lovable, if not indispensable

25 September 2015

I wrote last April about my excitement over buying an Apple Watch (and how I navigated the choices available). I ordered it online and the day it was set to arrive I was like a kid on Christmas morning. I devoted some time that day to setting it up just right. I loved it.

Soon, the excitement wore off and I was able to give it a more objective evaluation. People constantly ask me how I like it and my response for the last several months has been, “I like it, but it’s not indispensable. My phone is indispensable, but I could live without my watch.”

Yesterday, I put that to the test because I decided to upgrade my watch to the new OS2. It has to be on the charger for that to happen. A normal installation should take under an hour, but there was a problem with mine and I ended up keeping it attached to its charger (which means it couldn’t be on my wrist) for 24 hours before I caved in and called Apple. Turns out, my installation was problematic and required powering the watch off, then on, and starting over. It’s fine now. (Note to self: Next time, call Apple sooner. They were great.)

Going 24 hours without my watch strapped to my wrist made me realize that I really do use it a lot. It serves as a handy extension to my beloved iPhone. Here’s how I use it most:

  • To tell time (Imagine, a clock on my wrist!)
  • To easily set a timer (I use a timer many times a day)
  • To tell at a glance who is calling me
  • To easily turn the ringer off if I don’t want to talk to a caller
  • To read and swiftly reply to text messages
  • To turn the music on my phone on and off
  • To tell me when I need to turn when the Maps app is running on my phone (it buzzes my wrist and, if the sound is on, makes a tick-tick turn signal sound)
  • To monitor my exercise
  • To get me to stand up when I’m working long hours at my desk
  • To see the outside temperature at a glance
  • To see the next appointment on my calendar at a glance

The Apple Watch has to be charged every night and I’ve developed an easy routine of doing that. With the new OS2, I’ll be able to use it on its side on my nightstand to tell me the time and as a snooze-able alarm clock, so that will be nice. The band is much easier to take on and off than my previous FitBit and MisFit fitness bands and I find the watch very comfortable.

So the bottom line is that I’m very fond of my Apple Watch and I’m glad I bought it. Would I replace it immediately if I lost it or it died? Probably. But I wouldn’t go into the same panic I felt last year when my iPhone died.

Organizing your car

21 September 2015

Last week, a client asked me to help him organize the console and glove compartment of his car. I think that’s the first time I’ve been asked to organize a car and it was fun! In no time at all, we had his car organized so that he can find what he needs easily.

Perhaps because I had so much fun with my client, I decided to organize my own car today. In my case, the console is pretty much empty and the glove compartment under control, but the cargo area and back seat (full of organizing supplies) needed some love and attention.

Organizing a car is like organizing any space, just on a smaller scale. Here are the basic steps:

  • Empty the area in question (glove box, console, cargo area)
  • Sort the items into categories, putting like things together
  • Toss the inevitable trash
  • Take inside the stuff that belongs inside (I can guarantee there will be some)
  • Donate the car gadgets that seemed like a great idea but you never use
  • Start putting away the stuff you know you want to keep in the car. Start with the items you use most often and put them in the areas easiest to reach from the driver’s seat.
  • Putting the “just in case” stuff in the farthest away storage spaces—you really want to keep close at hands the items that are used regularly.

Here are some storage ideas we used for my client:

  • Ziploc® bag to corral his food items in the glove compartment
  • Stacked accessory boxes in his center console (which is square-ish), with the most used stuff in the top box, without a lid. Tucked underneath in an accessory box with a lid were items he wanted in the car but didn’t need super-easy access to.
  • The pocket in the passenger side door for the owner’s manual, so it didn’t take up valuable space in the glove compartment.

Don’t forget about your wastebasket! Putting wrappers and other trash items in a receptacle is probably the single best thing you can do to keep, your car looking clean. I absolutely love the hand-knit basket I put in my car (I knitted it before I bought the car and it fits perfectly into the spot in front of the console! Here’s a picture:

A felted knit basket makes a great car wastebasket

If you like the idea of a decorative, hand-made wastebasket, there are no shortage of options for car trash cans on Etsy.

Now that my car is clean and organized, I’m off to get it washed and detailed! When I think about how much time I spend in my car, I realize I should do that more often!

Unwanted housepaint gets new life with PaintAway

17 September 2015

Unwanted paint gets a new life with PaintAway

Do you have old cans of paint hanging around your house? I do. And so do many of my clients. At least here in St. Louis, it can be so hard to actually get rid of the paint, which is considered household hazardous waste.

That’s why I was thrilled to get a call from Terry Oliver, whom I have enjoyed working with in his capacity as an employee of 1-800-GOT-JUNK. Terry has co-founded a company called PaintAway, whose focus is to help folks get rid of their paint and (here’s the best part) put it to good use. Instead of being dried out and ending up in the landfill, PaintAway gives the paint to organizations that can remix and reuse it. The Muny, St. Louis’s beloved outdoor summer theater, will be the recipient of paint collected by PaintAway, for example.

To be clear, PaintAway has no affiliation with GOT-JUNK, which cannot legally disposes of paint for its customers.

PaintAway charges a little over $5 a can for the paint removal. That’s similar to the household hazardous waste charge one incurs for paint disposal. But with PaintAway, they come to you to take it away; you don’t have to take it to the disposal facility. And, of course, the paint is reused. It seems like a brilliant idea to me and I told Terry I’d be happy to spread the word here.

I’m planning a big basement cleanout soon (we’re doing some renovations), and I plan to call PaintAway to take away my old paint and give it a new life!

Stop thinking about it: Do it!

14 September 2015

Stop thinking, start doing

My newly lined drawer

Do you have little organizing projects around your house that are constantly taunting you? Do you walk through a room, see a pile and say to yourself, “I need to file.” Then just keep walking?

I do that all the time. It’s such a waste of mental energy when I could just do the task, rather than thinking about it. This really struck home this weekend. I had two little tasks (get my food storage containers in order and line a couple of kitchen drawers with non-skid drawer liner) that I have been telling myself to do for ages. I bought that drawer liner—and left it in plain sight!—a couple of months ago.

So yesterday, I promised myself I’d accomplish these two tasks. And do you know how long it took? Less than five minutes each. Seriously, the food-storage containers took a minute. A minute! And lining the drawers with this super easy Zip ‘N’Fit liner took five minutes. And now my drawer dividers don’t slide around. It’s a great thing.

Take a look around your house. Are there little tasks that you keep meaning to get around to doing? Do one of them! Or set a timer and do one of them for just ten minutes then come back it later. (That’s what I need to do with some filing.)

It’s crazy how I let these tasks tweak my brain rather than just relieving my brain by accomplishing the task. I think my motto this week is going to be *Just Do It!&

Transpose helps you create forms easily

10 September 2015

Create forms easily with Transpose

I love forma. I love creating forms and have been doing so for years. I used to use Word, then I moved to Excel. But now I have a much easier way to create forms: Transpose.

This free website is a drag-and-drop form creator. It started its life as an Evernote extension called KustomNote and has branched out on its own. with a new name. I’ve used Transpose to create a dozen form templates so far, four of which I use on a regular basis. Here are some ways I’ve used Transpose:

  • I created a form for my independent contractors (ICs) to fill out after a client appointment.
  • I created two different forms I use for my own task management
  • I created three forms for helping me keep track of genealogy data
  • I created a blog post planner
  • I created an inventory form for the containers I take to clients’ homes

When you create a form, you can create a link to it to share with others. For example, I sent a link to my ICs and they just click n the link and fill out the form, which ends up in my Transpose account. I can see using Transpose to create a form for clients or others to fill out. (Right now I send a feedback survey to clients through Fluid Surveys…I may shift to Transpose.)

So far, I’ve just scratched the surface with Transpose. When you fill out your forms (or have others fill them out), you’re creating a database, which I have not taken advantage of much yet. It has real potential as a contact management system. You can add all manner of fields in your forms that I haven’t even touched yet. Transpose seems to have a lot to offer.

Another terrific feature of Transpose is that you have option to make your form templates public. It’s a great way to share your form template (as oppose to just a fillable form) with others. And those public templates are a great way to find new forms to adapt for your own use.

So far, I’ve made four forms public.

I encourage you to check them out and also to “browse the public templates” that Transpose has available. There’s some great stuff out there. (I’m currently trying out 5 minute journal, which I find very appealing.

Of course, Transpose has an iOS app, so I can use it on my iPhone and iPad. (An Android app is in development.)

I’ve just been playing with Transpose for less than two months, but I’m really excited by the potential! I’m sure I’ll write future blog posts about Transpose as I delve further into its capabilities.

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